Topic: AIF - 3B - 9 LHR
The Jifjafa Raid
Sinai, 10 - 14 April 1916
Hour of Starting:
Left starting point at 1407, 11 April 1916.
Rate of March:
Normal walk with a halt at 10 minutes to each hour and resuming march at each hour.
1st Day, 11 April 1916.
The Column proceeded in a south westerly direction and halted to heed horses at 1700 on contour 500 and 3/4 mile due north of Point 610, Square 3D [Little Bitter Lake Sheet]. From starting point to this place the surface gradually got more solid for the horses.
OC Field Ambulance asked me to slacken the pace of the Head of Column as his horses had to trot in places to keep up and even then had to travel 3 or 4 minutes at every halt to catch up with column. On moving off at 1930 the course was set for 115 degrees which was practically kept except for skirting sand hills until the Wadi Um Mukhshieb was struck at 2130.
The travelling over this portion was very good and although the Column moved at a fast walk the Ambulance Sand Cart had no difficulty in keeping up with the Column.The Column marched down the wadi to the point of bivouac about half a mile south west of Point 850 Square 3M [Little Bitter Lake Sheet].
This point was reached at 2230. The travelling down the wadi was very good and except for a few short patches which were sandy was fit for Field Artillery to move at the trot. The Camel Train was met there.
2nd Day 12 April 1916
Column left bivouac at 0730. The bivouac occupied by the previous Reconnaissance Column was passed at 0820 and the well reconnoitred by previous Column was reached at 1120. The travelling down the wadi was very good except for the last mile and a quarter which was very rough and stony. The Camel Transport which left the same time as the Column under escort of Bikanir Camel Corps arrived at the well at 1320. This well is situated in the bend of the wadi about 5/8th of a mile east of where the wadi turns south to Moiya-Harab, Square 5k [Little Bitter Lake Sheet]. Here the Column bivouacked.
At about 11/4 [one and a quarter] miles east of this well, reconnoitring parties were sent out both to north and south to find out if any signs could be seen of Bedouin Camps which had been reported near by aeroplane at 0715, but no sign of the camps could be found although fresh camel and human feet tracks were very plain. During the morning three Bedouins and a camel were captured and brought along with the Column. They were afterwards released.
From this point reconnoitring parties were sent out and the information obtained as shown in paragraph about water.
The Column resumed its march to point 1340 leaving the bivouac site by a branch of the wadi running north north east for about a mile and half until the high land was reached. This wadi was extremely rough and impassable to wheeled traffic.
The march continued to point 1340 Square 5B [Little Bitter Lake Sheet] keeping in sight of the hills all the whole way. The surface was very good and arrived at point 1340 at 0230 of the 3rd day where the Column bivouacked.
One Officer and 16 Other Ranks of the Light Horse Squadron and four Light Horse Camel drivers were left at the well to guard Camel Train not required on the next part of the journey.
3rd Day, 13 April 1916.
At 0530 the Column moved from this point leaving the Bikanir Camel Corps, Wireless Section and Transport under the charge of Captain BB Ragless, and marched to hill 1082, Square 2D and halted there at 0730. Awaited for message from aeroplane which was dropped at 0800. The message received stated that "All was clear". From this point it was decided to attack the enemy's position. The travelling along the track was very good but in view of Hill 1082 and to the hills to the south and east throughout its entire distance.
The return journey to point 1340 was made along practically the same route as was 1340 to bivouac at well except the wadi was followed down from about one mile east of point 1648 Square 3L Square 5k [Little Bitter Lake Sheet]. From this point back to the well was extremely rough and very hard going. The return route from this point to Road Head was on practically the same lines as going out.
1. At second bivouac a well and cistern containing total of 33,000 gallons.
2. At branch of wadi where it turns south to Moiya-Harab is a cistern 50 foot by 15 foot by 18 foot deep containing 9 feet of water. The opening has a wooden cover, 8 foot by 9 foot and a round man hole 1 foot 6 inches in diameter. This contained about 42,300 gallons of water.
North east of this is a large underground excavation with 4 stone pillars cut out of solid rock. The roof is four feet from the floor. The floor is covered with silt which appears to come from the back of the excavation. The stone pillars are about four feet square. There is no water in this excavation.
To the north east and about ten feet from the back of the excavation a cistern runs back into the hill for a distance of at least thirty feet and fifteen feet wide and twenty two feet deep. There is at present two feet of water in this cistern containing approximately 5,700 gallons of water.
(a) North east of this cistern about ten feet is another cistern which is entirely silted up.
(b) North east of (a) is a dry cistern with a man hole cut out of the rock fifteen inches in diameter.
(c) North east of (b) about fourteen feet is a cistern forty feet by thirty feet by ten feet dry with silt in the bottom.
(d) East north east of (c) is a cistern with a small man hole four feet by two feet nearly silted.
(e) Two hundred to two fifty yards north east of (d) on the side of the hill facing east a tunnel enters hill about 30 feet from the bottom of the valley and runs in 19 feet and enters in four chambers each about nine feet square and seven feet high with troughs cut out of three sides eighteen inches wide and twelve inches deep.
3. Moiya-Harab - Following the branch of the wadi down south from Water No 2 the well is about two and a half miles distant and on the east side of the wadi. This well has a diameter of fifteen feet a depth of eight feet and has two feet six inches of water. This was all the water found in the locality Gebel Um Mukhshieb. No water was found at Bir el Jifjafa.
Capture of Turks at Bir El Jifjafa
The force was halted to the south of Hill 1080 out of view of Bir el Jifjafa and the attack was planned for 0900 13 April 1916 as the Royal Flying corps had informed me that they believed the personnel of the Camp retired to the hills until after aeroplanes passed over them and then returned to camp.
Having made a reconnaissance with field glasses on Troop under Lieutenant McDonald was detailed to pass around the west and north of Hill 1080 and occupy a point on ridge about a mile north west of supposed position of enemy's camp.
One Troop under Lieutenant Pender to move north east and pass enemy's works on the south.
One Troop less eight men under Lieutenant Linacre to make the frontal attack. Four men and Machine Gun Section were held in reserve and four men for escort to Engineers Stores and Ammunition.
On arrival at point X it was seen that Lieutenant McDonald would be a little late arriving at his position so Lieutenant Linacre and sixteen others were sent over ridge slightly to north of enemy's post. The remaining men and Reserves marched direct on to the Post.
One man of the enemy's outpost was seen to retire.
The whole of the enemy bolted from the camp, some taking to the hills and others to south east.
Those who took to the hills were headed off by Lieutenant Pender's Troop and the enemy took up position shown on sketch. Here the fighting took place with the result that the whole party were either killed or captured.
Six of the enemy were known to be killed and five wounded, one of these being in a very serious condition and could not be moved.
The following prisoners were captured:
1 Austrian Engineer Officer
34 Other Ranks including four wounded
According to the Austrian Officer the post was occupied by one Officer, 25 Soldiers and 15 Labour Corps. A Total of 41. It would appear the whole of the enemy's force had been accounted for, but two mounted men were seen to gallop away in an easterly direction. These may not have belonged to Post; I regret to have to report that No 976 Corporal Monaghan of the 8th Light horse Regiment was killed. Our other casualties being on horse killed.
From information received from the prisoners the enemy's fighting force was part of the 2nd Company 4th Battalion 79th Regiment 27th Division 8th Army Corps 4th Army and the other personnel belonged to a Labour Corps,
No. 1 boring plant. Well casing six inch diameter. Bore 276 feet deep. No water. Work of boring apparently suspended though all plant was laid out in readiness for work.
German military artesian. Very substantive, beautifully made, nothing temporary about any part of it. This part consisted of winch separate from gin legs and one and a half inch steel rope used. Large quantities of tools small parts of drill etc., of boring plant. These were dropped down the bore which was subsequently blown in 25 feet from the surface rendering recovery impossible.
No. 2 Bore. Eight inches diameter 51 feet deep. Apparently abandoned. Situated 41 yards east of No. 1 Bore. Found damp sand at bottom. This was a well casing only with no plant.
No. 3 Bore. Similar to No. 1 but winch was bracketed to frame of gin. Well casing eight feet in diameter. Depth 260 feet [approximately]. No water and no tools. Plant demolished.
Two sets of gins wrecked by cutting legs in two with gun cotton. Two winches one fixed to frame of gin and the other quarter hydraulic pipe destroyed with gun cotton and hammers. Twenty rendered useless.
6 Bell tents,
1 large tent,
stores of biscuits,
general camp equipment
4,000 rounds of small arms ammunition were destroyed by dropping down bores and afterwards blown up also by placing in fires.
19 rifles captured.
7 rifles destroyed.
2 enemy camels captured.
A number of papers and letters were seized.
Three trenches in echelon were in course of construction. Two being practically finished. To the east of the trenches was a concrete foundation with a circular groove cut round it evidently for the foundation of an anti aircraft gun. This was not reported to me until after leaving the works.
Attack on camp at No. 1 Well.
Lieutenant Nelson was left in charge of details at this bivouac he reported that during the night of the 12th/13th a large number of shots were fired into the camp to which he replied. No casualties took place. He had the assistance of one Officer and 10 Other Ranks of the Middlesex Yeomanry who had connected up from the 9th Army Corps Reconnaissance on the previous night. It is believed that this firing came from Bedouins.
Wadi in flood.
On the 14th April 1916 on the return journey at about 1700 the wadi came down in flood.
In the region of wells No. 1, 2, and 3, a small party could keep off a large force from getting to the wells owing to the rough nature of the ground. The whole of the road from Moiya-Harab to Bir el Jifjafa is commanded by hills on the east and an observation point on 1082 would see practically the whole of the last 10 miles of this road.
On the morning of the 13th the Khamp Seem was blowing and concealed our movements to a great extent. The atmosphere became much clearer by 0800 and gave every opportunity for observation. At about 1200 when we started to return the dust was very thick and continued so till late at night.
A halt was made at the camp at 1340 and the march to the water started at 1730 and arrived there at 2230; frequent halts had to be made in order to keep in touch with the Camels.
The wireless detachment had a good deal of difficulty in getting messages through owing to the dust interfering with the adjustments in the apparatus and the constant jamming of higher power stations. This detachment was very smart in erecting and dismantling its station.
Efficiency. The men and horses stood the fatigue well, four horses had gone lame owing to having their shoes pulled off by the stones in the wadi.
There were no cases of sickness amongst the personnel. Both men and horses were tired on return to camp.
I desire to bring under notice the names of the following:-
1. Captain MacCaulay, 2nd AA NZ Staff for his able personal assistance to myself in the collection of information and for his cooperation during the operations.
2. Captain Warne, 8th Light horse Regiment. This Officer made a previous reconnaissance of portion of the country and his knowledge and experience were of great value to me from first to last. He is the finest Scout Officer I have seen and was untiring in his energy, giving me particular help in his topographical knowledge.
3. Lieutenant Pender, 9th light Horse Regiment. This officer whom I placed in charge of the right attacking party showed considerable initiative in anticipation of the enemy's retirement by making a rapid movement round the rear of the position, thus cutting off the preventing the escape of any of the garrison.
4. Lieutenant Eggar and personnel of the RE Section, Wireless and the Officers Lieutenants Snooks and Pitman and personnel of the Royal Flying Corps.
5. Captain Ayris, 10th Light Horse Regiment, ADC to GOC, 3rd Light horse Brigade, acted in the capacity of my Staff and did excellent work and personally captured the Austrian Officer.
6. Bikanir Camel Corps. The incorporation of this unit was of very great value in carrying out the protection of the Camel Transport train and did their work in the most efficient and intelligent manner. Also Corporal Smith showed much initiative and ability in anticipating a vantage point for the enemy which he occupied with his section with most excellent results.
7. Second Lieutenant Colghlan, Australian Engineers. For obtaining information of wells, bores, etc and for his demolition work.
Further Reading:Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920
Citation: The Jifjafa Raid, Sinai, April 10 to 14, 1916, Scott Account